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Humble B.C. senior who ripped mask off Walmart robber downplays her bravery

She said actions were the result of built up frustration at brazen thieves
Elaine Gallaway said unmasking the robbery suspect was a gut reaction. Ronan O’Doherty/ Campbell River Mirror

Elaine Gallaway’s phone has been ringing off the hook since a video of her thwarting a robbery at the Campbell River Walmart on Saturday, Jan. 29 went viral.

Neighbours and old friends are competing with press from all over to get more details on her gutsy unmasking of a man trying to exit the store with a shopping cart laden with unpaid for goods.

The 73-year-old is screening the calls as she would prefer her life returns to back to the way it was.

The spry woman can’t be taller than 5’3”, but she exudes an air of confidence, and moves quickly and efficiently.

Despite the swiftness to action she displayed in the video, Gallaway said she had never taken any self-defense classes.

“I’m sort of a pushover,” she tried to explain. “Everybody is shocked I had this in my DNA. I think it was a result of frustration building up inside my body, which lashed out.”

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That fateful Saturday, she was at Walmart to pick up some dishwashing liquid, when she spotted a man stuffing a knapsack with beef roasts.

“I hustled past him as quick as I could and told a staff member,” she said, noting she was told security would deal with it.

After wrapping up at a self-check-out station, she was exiting the store when the same man she’d seen stuff the knapsack was quickly making his way to the exit with a bike and a shopping cart laden with goods.

Gallaway said the shoplifting suspect rammed into her, and instinct kicked in. She blocked his exit, and grabbed the balaclava he was wearing off of his head.

“Getting a good picture of him, is what you need to report him to the police,” she said. “It was a gut reaction, from frustration that these people are brazen enough to walk in, steal stuff, and then walk out, which in turn puts hardship on myself, and all the other seniors that struggle to keep going.”

Five minutes into a chat with a Mirror reporter, Gallaway’s phone starts ringing. She lets it go to the answering machine, and it plays over a speaker while the message is left.

“My friend set a message the other night asking is that you in a Walmart, and I said that’s not me, but it looks like my friend Elaine, and there you are on TV,” the person calling said.

“That’s my neighbour,” Gallaway explains, somewhat tired of it all four days into the hoopla. “This has been non-stop.

“It’s nice to have your five minutes of fame, but you have to go on with your life.”

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